On Dr. King and the right to choose

Friday, February 1, 2013

Thinking about the recent MLK celebration and what he stood for and died for makes you wonder about a lot of rights we take for granted and how fragile such victories are.

While current trends in civil rights legislation tend toward LGBT or immigration issues, all the old prejudices remain in place. You want proof? This week, on the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, thousands are expected to march in Washington and hold prayer rallies all across the country against this landmark decision.

The worst part? Many young people don't even really understand what Roe v. Wade is or why it's important.

It is easy to decry Muslim customs in some countries regarding women -- places where women can't drive, can't reveal their faces, are tracked via GPS by their husband's cell phones -- and in short have few if any real rights other than the "right" to be owned by their husbands and have his kids.

It is less easy to spot this kind of prejudice in your own backyard. But when you have political figures making idiotic pronouncements like Todd Akin's infamous "If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways of shutting that whole thing down," you have to wonder how far we really are from the day 40 years ago when abortion became legal.

What would Dr. King think about this topic? Here is a quote from a King speech given when he was awarded the Planned Parenthood Foundation Margaret Sanger Award in 1966: "There is no human circumstance more tragic than the persisting existence of a harmful condition for which a remedy is readily available. Family planning, to relate population to world resources, is possible, practical and necessary. Unlike plagues of the dark ages or contemporary diseases we do not yet understand, the modern plague of overpopulation is soluble by means we have discovered and with resources we possess."

During the election cycle, someone posted an old R. Crumb cartoon online which shows a woman in a dress, sitting in a chair, punching herself in the face, and the caption read, "Women voting Republican."

The idea being if a woman votes Republican, she is casting a vote to lose her right to choose, right to equal pay, and access to health care.

It is hard to argue against this cartoon very seriously, because it is true.

A recently introduced bill in New Mexico would require rape victims to carry their pregnancies to term during the suspects' sexual assault trials or face charges of "tampering with evidence."

Under HB 206, if a woman ended her pregnancy after being raped, both she and her doctor would be charged with a felony punishable by up to three years in state prison. Specifically, it says, "Tampering with evidence shall include procuring or facilitating an abortion, or compelling or coercing another to obtain an abortion, of a fetus that is the result of criminal sexual penetration or incest with the intent to destroy evidence of the crime."

This is a horrible perfect example of the kind of cruel, weird, squirrely government that pro-life legislators keep trying to jam through and into law, to prevent abortions in a roundabout way -- not illegalizing it outright, but under specific conditions.

Eventually the idea would be to narrow down the conditions under which a woman may terminate a pregnancy to the point where it doesn't happen at all.

It certainly isn't the moral right of middle-class conservative white men elected to office, whether they think it is or not. It's morally wrong.

We think that's what Dr. King might say.